You will probably be aware by now that I’m quite taken with Norway. I talk about it whenever the opportunity arises. (It’s only going to get worse folks, just so you know.) Though I don’t think I’ve talked about how, when I was little, Roald Dahl helped fuel my obsession for everything Norsk.
I was captivated by Dahl’s autobiography Boy, in which he talks about his childhood holidays in Norway, but it was the film adaptation of his 1983 book The Witches – and one scene in particular – that really developed my fascination for the place, as well as leaving me haunted forevermore.
“Mysterious things go on in the world of witches.”Helga
At the beginning of the film, Grandmother Helga explains to her Grandson Luke how truly awful witches are, which leads to the telling of a story about her childhood friend Erica, who was taken by a witch.
Erica’s tragic story began when her father asked her to go and get some milk. She went on her way, but, while walking a darkened side street, a witch snatched her. No trace of Erica could be found. Six weeks later, in the company of a young Helga and Erica’s Mother, Erica’s horrified father finally found her. Erica was trapped, frozen in a painting of a farmhouse hung on a wall of the family home. She was dressed exactly as she had been on the day she went missing.
Erica gazed sadly out of the farmhouse window and her mournful spirit called out for her papa. Over time, Erica’s position in the painting changed – though no one ever saw her move – and she grew older. Her outfits changed too. (I was quite besotted with a dress she wore as a young woman.) Then, one day, she disappeared.
“There, as if it had always been there was Erica, locked in the painting, gazing at us.”Helga
The scene was harrowing when I was a kid. It remains harrowing now. Most of the horror films I’ve watched have been unable to conjure a mere fraction of the creepiness conveyed through Erica’s story.
It wasn’t just what happened to Erica that had me engrossed though. I was obsessed with her lusekofte, (I’d also wear her dad’s cardigan in a heartbeat), Bergen’s clapboard houses, and the painting itself, gods, the painting! Isn’t it just fucking exquisite? I’m desperate to climb those mountains.
I know The Witches has been remade recently, but I have zero intention of watching it. From what I’ve seen from a trailer, it looks dreadful. And I heard Erica’s storyline has been erased and replaced with a girl who is turned into *sigh* an oversized chicken. Make of that what you will.